By Deb Silverthorn
Tzedakah that has the potential for impact years beyond its initiation is the underlying gift made through the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation (DJCF). In the last 10 years, the Foundation and its affiliates have distributed more than $150 million to charitable causes.
“We’re so proud to be defining and implementing legacies on behalf of our donors. They come to us with a passion, and it is our job to think broadly about how best to connect them to make that support,” said Megan Hyman, DJCF CEO. “It’s an honor to serve as trusted advisers, with whomever else might be on their team, to ensure their money serves a charitable and meaningful purpose.”
The Foundation, which does not fundraise, provides flexible, individualized charitable giving plans at no cost. At the end of July 2022, DJCF had approximately $300 million in assets under management. It also offers community and professional adviser education covering the most relevant planning and gifting topics. Donors can provide for one beneficiary or several, and distributions made while the donor is alive or after their passing (or both), with a $5,000 deposit to a donor-advised fund.
To nonprofit agencies, DJCF offers endowment and planned giving education; low-cost, high-quality investment options; and access to charitable planning which allows them to invest their assets with the Foundation, sharing their most urgent needs and/or transformative programs.
“We’re a philanthropic ‘back office.’ We research prospective beneficiary agencies and confirm however they appropriate funds,” said Mona Allen, DJCF director of development and legacy. She has worked at the Foundation for nearly 10 years. “We’ve had many people come to us with bags and bundles of envelopes for organizations they want to help. Ultimately only a few have any validity,” she said.
DJCF serves Jewish youth as the largest Jewish provider of college scholarships in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex. In addition to its camp scholarships, Teen Israel experiences and 71 college and other post-high school education scholarships, the Foundation supports hundreds of additional funds.
“The Foundation works through tikkun olam, repairing the world, and it’s important to us that the beneficiaries of funds we hold are the most deserving to fulfill that,” said Allen. “We help donors create a footprint for themselves, a family member or friend, beyond their time in this life.”
The Janis Levine Music Women and Children Endowment Fund defines Allen’s inspiration. Established in memory of Janis Levine Music by her friends and family, the fund awards grants annually to social, cultural, educational and health programs that directly benefit or are of great importance to women and children.
“Mom was vice-president elect of NCJW when she passed away, 28 years ago, and she was absolutely passionate about helping women and children. Now the fund, started by those who loved her, has grown such that we’re able to continue her mission to make significant impacts to amazing organizations. The fund gives away $20,000 every two years,” said Joey Music Daniel, one of Music’s three children. She explained that when the group gathers to determine beneficiaries, they do so near Music’s May 26 birth date with a toast of her mother’s favorites: champagne and berries.
“Mom never knew our spouses, or her eight grandchildren, but together with her friends and family members, we’re keeping her memory and dedication to women and children alive,” said Daniel. “We live to her example and that will continue through the next generations.”
The Sylvan T. Baer Foundation Bank of America, N.A. Trustee, was created in 1965 by its namesake, honoring his late parents, Helen and Jacob. Opened with $700,000, it has awarded more than $8.5 million. DJCF is the hired consultant that identifies and awards agencies helping the Jewish community in North Texas.
The Dallas Jewish Burial Fund came from conversations Alan and Gina Tolmas had after the loss of an extended family member. The costs, planning and process for a proper Jewish burial were something they wanted to see provided to people who could not otherwise afford one. Together, with Alan’s sister Dr. Jeanie Tolmas, they have funded initial money, hoping others will contribute toward establishing a base fund of $100,000 from which to grow.
“Many people are turning to cremation rather than burial, because it’s less expensive, and we don’t want money to be what forces that decision,” said Alan Tolmas. “With Rabbi Wolk, JFS’ community chaplain, and Charles Hirschberg, head of the community’s Dallas Chevra Kadisha, we look forward to making proper Jewish burials a possibility. We know the Foundation, with its expertise, is an excellent custodial guide to perform this true act of kindness, like physically helping to bury someone, which cannot be repaid by the recipient.”
This fall, the inaugural application cycle of the Joan and Bernard White Jewish Future Fund will open. The fund’s scholarships are open to students in grades nine through 12, to support their attending Jewish day school, overnight camp, gap year, year in Israel or March of the Living programs.
“My wife and I grew up in Young Judaea and, while we didn’t meet until college, we both have memories and experiences that truly formed our Jewish identities in every way,” said Bernie White. “We’re just at the beginning, making every effort to actuate our good intentions, and we look forward to seeing the impact our fund can make. The Foundation has a long and respected track record and we’re grateful for their support in creating a meaningful mechanism.”
While many scholarships are based on financial need, the Whites decided their gifts would be merit-based, awarded to the hardest-working students, “the best and brightest with potential to move into positions of Jewish leadership in the years to come,” they say.
Donors have called on the Foundation to redirect support to such emergencies as the bombings in Boston, the 2013 fires in West Texas and recent fires in California, to help sponsor planes to bring refugees to Israel from Ukraine, flooding in Louisiana and, most recently, immediate relief for hurricane victims in Florida.
“First and foremost, our goal is to educate and inform our donors about the good their money can do. Our donors know we have our pulse on need and when they call, we act,” said Allen. “Sometimes that need is in the future, and sometimes there’s an immediate crisis and we can facilitate it all.”
“People care and if you want to be generous,” said Allen, “the amount of zeroes doesn’t matter.”